At this point in the season, one might be tempted to complain a bit about “the winter of our discontent” but truth be told it hasn’t been very cold in the Northeast. We’ve been blessed with some beautifully warm days that allow for long walks and hours of bike riding. Crocus are peeking out of the soil. Yet it doesn’t quite alleviate the malaise that can often sneak up on you come mid-February.
So, I welcome the opportunity to join a group seeding the flats of onions, leeks and scallions that will germinate in the greenhouse and later be planted at Restoration Farm as part of our share for the 2012 season. With a little imagination, you can summon up visions of future meals – sandwiches topped with caramelized onions, potato leek soup, and stir fry garnished with bright green scallions.
As always, Head Grower Caroline Fanning has organized the seeding process with precise focus. There are sheets listing exactly how many flats and what varieties of allium will be planted. She says the start of seeding is her favorite day of the year.
The approach is a “two-finger” “two-handed” process. You use the first two fingers of your left hand to make dimples in the soil, and you use your right hand to guide several tiny seeds into the dimple using an index card folded to resemble a scoop.
The seeds are microscopic. It requires sharp eyesight and concentration.
At times, we become so engrossed that all you can hear is the wind outside the greenhouse.
I prepare flats of Gladstone Onions, and King Richard Leeks, which perhaps explains the quotation which opens this essay.
A young farmer in our group named Josh gets down and dirty.
He reports that the group completes 47 flats, and he knows because he carried each one of them across the yard for the final watering.
Meanwhile - in the house - a whole other rite of agriculture is unfolding. A brood of 40 newly-hatched heritage chicks have arrived. The box - which was shipped rush overnight – is chirping away loudly on the counter.
The chicks will be part of a planned heritage chicken program available this season. There are four different breeds and the chicks will reach maturity in about 12 weeks.
One-by-one they are shifted from the shipping box to the brooder, where they quickly locate their water and organic feed.
We’ll have the opportunity to experience new flavors, textures and recipes with these heritage breeds.
Our work completed, the crew shares a potluck lunch that includes a delicious hearty black been soup made by Lucille, cous cous with vegetables and a loaf of my multi-grain bread. There's something about a group effort, followed by a meal. The flavors are more satisfying than the fanciest of gourmet meals.
You can just taste the anticipation for the growing season ahead!
©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved